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16 September 2013 @ 07:24 am
FIC: A portentous Muffin  
Author: Osiris Brackhaus
Story Title: A portentous Muffin
Part: 1/1
Rating: PG
Configuration: /
Warnings: /
Word Count: 2.600
Setting: 'Phoenix Empire' verse, see Phoenix Empire Timeline & Index
Characters: Ekai/Mattis, Lady Beverly
Summary: Freshly minted Phoenix Knight Sir Ekai meets an alien in the washroom, and she comes bearing gifts...
Feedback: Yes, please!

Done washing his hands, Ekai looked up and studied himself in the mirror.

If he hadn’t known better, he wouldn’t have recognized himself. Dressed in his ‘iconic’ outfit that the PR team had designed for him, he still looked like a stranger. Even though he hadn’t been wearing anything else in the last three weeks. There was only very little that reminded of the simple slave boy he had been before the Emperor had the foolish idea of making a Phoenix Knight out of him.

At least, Commander Li Ma and the Emperor seemed intend on giving him a chance to learn the ropes, first, before sending him out on a mission.

He was spending his day mostly in the lower levels of the Phoenix Knight tower, in one of the countless training rooms, learning skills that other people had deemed necessary for his job. Apparently, learning how to dodge seemed to be very high up on the agenda. So every other day, he and Mattis were trained by Mistress MeiLin, a very polite and unnervingly observant courtesan, learning how to move and roll and generally play hard to get.
Ekai still had to smile, remembering Mattis’ first reaction on the frail lady in a bright red cheongsam who was introduced to them as their fighting teacher. When she challenged him the he would be unable to get her into a choking hold that she couldn’t get out of, Mattis had tried to show her the opposite.

In a way, he still was, two weeks later. That woman was as slippery as a glass of water, just without the glass.

Ekai was just about to turn around and leave when he almost bumped into a chest-high creature that had appeared soundlessly next to him.

“Oh here you are,” the alien exclaimed, beaming merrily with a mouth full of wide herbivore teeth. “And aren’t you so cute!”

“Oh, hi,” Ekai replied, slightly taken aback at the overwhelming enthusiasm. “And thanks, I think.”

Taking a moment to take a closer look at his new admirer, Ekai realized that it was the oddest alien he had seen so far. The merrily smiling head was attached to a long, muscular neck that ended in a massive body on two short, sturdy legs and fittingly big feet. A long, slender tail balanced the neck, making the alien at least twice as long as it was high.
A well-worn messenger bag made from an old carpet was hanging over the creature’s shoulder, and it took Ekai another heartbeat to realized that the alien actually had four arms that it was gesturing with excitedly. On its head, the creature had an oddly human-looking leather cap with earflaps, and on top of that it was wearing some sort of protective goggles.

For no particular reason, Ekai was entirely sure that this alien was one of the nicest people he had ever met.

“You’re welcome!” the creature insisted, taking two of her hands to shake one of Ekai’s. “And please let me congratulate you on becoming a Phoenix Knight! I love new Phoenix Knights!”

This was delivered with so much honest enthusiasm that Ekai couldn’t help but smile with her. At least, he was reasonably sure it was a her.

“Now where are my manners? I am talking all the time and you have no clue who I am.” Now she took her two remaining hands, shaking Ekai’s other hand, too, pretty much confusing him for good. “I am Beverly Corosant, but of course you can just call me Bev. I mean, basically everybody does. Except for Cornelius, but he’s always so serious.”

Somewhere deep in the back of his mind, Ekai was sure he had heard that name already before, but right then, he couldn’t remember anything.

“Oh, do you want a muffin?” she asked, finally letting go of Ekai’s hands and starting to rummage in the depths of her bag. “I brought a muffin just for you, I only have to find it.” She found what she was looking for a moment later, and produced a somewhat worn-looking muffin. Visibly embarrassed, she picked a small slip of brightly green paper off the frosting and hid it in her hand while presenting the muffin to Ekai. “I haven’t made it myself, I am sorry, but I can assure you it’s almost as good as home made.”

“Thank you, that is really kind of you.” Ekai took the offered treat, smiling and feeling a little overwhelmed. He had no clue at all how to deal with such honest fangirling. “But this really wasn’t necessary.”

“Nah.” Gesturing with two of her four hands, Ekai realized that Bev had a lot more options than a human. “Also I thought it fitting to bring you a chocolate muffin. It really suits you,” she added with a cheeky grin.

Great. Ekai didn’t mind Mattis calling him muffin, but if this caught on, he’d be Sir Muffin for the rest of eternity. Nothing he was really looking forward to.

“I AM distracted today, can you believe it? But new Phoenix Knights are always so exciting! So many possibilities.” Again digging in her bag, she produced another small something. “Here. When I heard you were not a fighter, I thought we non-fighting folks had to help each other out. So I made a little something for you.”

Carefully taking the gift out of Beverly’s small hands, Ekai tried to make sense of it. It looked like a piece of wood, or metal, gold and white with beautiful patterns, and shaped like a hilt or a handle of something. “That is very beautiful, thank you,” he said honestly. “What is it?”

“A pocket tool.” Beverly chuckled at her reply, apparently very proud of her work. “It’s like an army knife, just… more useful.”

“More useful than an army knife?”

Now Ekai was curious himself. Examining the item closely, he found a small groove just deep enough for his fingernail to fit inside. The previously seamless block of material split apart smoothly, revealing more gold and white patterns and nothing else. Realizing that now the outsides of the block fit like pieces of a puzzle, he put them back together. Suddenly, his fingertips found a previously hidden groove, and much to his own surprise, slid out a perfectly functional looking fork.

“A fork,” he stated, not quite sure if this was working as intended. But Beverly’s wide smile and beaming eyes told him that he was doing it right. “Is there something else in there?”

“Well, I HAD to put the important tools on top. But try. If I did everything right, you should be able to figure it out all by yourself.” Rubbing her blunt nose in a cute, self-conscious gesture, she added: “Else, I’ll have to work on it a little longer. It is supposed to be totally simple.”

“So it’s… like a puzzle?” Ekai asked, only to be rewarded with a happy nod of childlike glee from the alien.

So Ekai tried some more combinations, always figuring out new ways of splitting and recombining the thing, each time finding something else hidden in the miraculous contraption. In short order, he produced a table knife, a spoon, a corkscrew, a brush, a carving knife and a short but very sharp saw. When suddenly, he found a small button with his fingers and the thing in his hand gave off a bright beam of warm light like a torchlight, he laughed out loud.

“This is awesome!” Again, Beverly nodded vigorously, very pleased. “How many tools ARE in there?” Ekai asked.

This time, Beverly gestured him to bend down so she could whisper in his ear. She smelled faintly of engine grease, pizza and raspberry drops.

“All of them,” she whispered.

Not doubting her claim, Ekai gave her a wide-eyed look. “But – you can’t give this to me. There’s so many people who will need this much more than I. The army, or the firefighters, or – “

“I made this for you, as a gift.” Chuckling again, she added: “And believe me, you will need it. After all, you’re a Phoenix Knight, now.”

Ekai rolled his eyes. “I really don’t feel like a Phoenix Knight. I feel like a fraud, and I am constantly afraid someone’s going to find out.”

“Mmh.. I can see how that’s hard,” she said, her head swaying pensively from side to side on her long neck. “But you got friends who believe in you, don’t you?”

Ekai nodded. “Mattis. We are… we are going to marry. And he thinks I’ll make a great Phoenix Knight.”

“See. If you don’t believe in yourself yet, just believe in him. It’ll work well enough.”

“But his plans are always crap!” it burst out of Ekai. “It scares me that he thinks this is going to go well.”

Now, Beverly laughed out loud, a deep, mirthful sound that made Ekai instantly feel silly about his concerns.

“Maybe he’s not a good planner,” she said with a sly smile. “But was he ever wrong about his feelings?”

“No.” If there was one thing Ekai could absolutely rely on with Mattis, he always knew his heart. And most of the times, he also knew Ekai’s heart better than he himself.

“So you’ve got nothing to worry.” Smiling again with her dazzling rows of herbivore teeth, Beverly gently patted the tool Ekai was still holding in his hands. “Play with it, it needs to get to know you.”

“Is it alive?!”

“No, not in the traditional sense. But it learns, and it will figure out what you want faster the more you use it. As I said – I made it for you.”

“Thank you, Lady Beverly.” Ekai wasn’t too sure about the title, but it sounded right. “This is really a great gift. The muffin, I mean. And the tool, too.”

Beverly chuckled again, apparently very pleased with Ekai’s little joke. “You are so very welcome, my dear. I wish you all the best of good luck on your path, and if you ever need anything, just give me a call.”

“I will,” Ekai promised firmly.

As if in confirmation, Lady Beverly nodded and then suddenly disappeared into thin air.

Startled, Ekai remained where he was standing for a moment longer, wondering what just had happened. Half-consciously, he peeled the muffin out its paper cup and started eating, munching away. She had been right, this was a perfectly great muffin. Actually, it was one of the best muffins Ekai had ever eaten. If he ever saw her again, he would have to tell her, Ekai decided.

He was still licking his fingers clean when he returned into his training room.

Mistress MeiLin was standing in the middle of the room, composed and cool as always, while Mattis was in a corner, flushed and huffing, hands on his knees, trying to catch a breath.

“Sir Ekai,” MeiLin greeted him with a biting mix of formality and accusation. “So nice you found your way back to us. There is chocolate all over your face.”

For a change, her tone didn’t even touch Ekai. “Have to two been playing catch again?”

Mattis stood up straight and gave him a thumbs-up. “I managed to touch her, this time.”

“Your fiancé is improving. “ MeiLin still sounded accusing. “So what took you so long?”

“There was an alien in the washroom,” Ekai replied, studying one of the wall-length mirrors to check for the alleged chocolate in his face. “And she gave me a muffin.”

“An alien.” Mistress MeiLin still sounded all but convinced.

“An alien, yes. I mean, not a human. I don’t know if she was from here or not.” Smiling at his own weak joke, Ekai added: “A little short, long neck, long tail, big feet, big smile. Bag, leather cap, goggles. I think she said her name was Beverly.”

“Beverly Corosant?” For the first time since Ekai knew her, there was something like deep surprise in MeiLin’s voice. “A Nosoti GAVE you food?!”

“Yeah…” Ekai replied, hesitant at his instructor’s obvious disbelief. “Shouldn’t I have taken it?”

“No, no, it’s just – “ From some invisible fold of her skin-tight cheongsam, Mistress MeiLin produced a fan, opened it with a pointed ‘snap’ and started fanning herself. “Do you even know what a Nosoti is?” she asked.

“Not really.” Wrecking his mind, Ekai remembered at least something. “Weren’t they the one that laid siege to Far’Gesh during the Second Succession War?”

“No. Those were the N’Bosoti.” By the tone of her voice, Ekai’s suggestion had bordered to insult. “The N’Bosoti are called the Ancient Evil, a race bent on either conquering or destroying all other sentients or be destroyed by their betters.” Gaining a semblance of composure, MeiLin continued with her lecture. “The Nosoti are their brethren, at least in spirit. As ancient, as powerful, and as seldomly appearing in person, they want to teach, to inspire, and to help.”

“But that sounds nice,” Mattis interjected from his corner, taking a shy step towards her. “So what’s the deal about the muffin?”

“Nosoti LOVE food. They love sappy movies and campfire singing and stand-up comedy and karaoke nights, but most of all, they love food. I have never even heard of a Nosoti giving away food, at least not if you discount potluck parties.”

“I don’t think it’s such a deal,” Ekai tried to calm her. “She just came to see the new Phoenix Knight, give me a muffin and wish me good luck.”

Mistress MeiLin gave a startled laugh, snapping out her fan once more. “She wished you good luck?!”

“So?” By now, Ekai was growing worried about his instructor. “Did I do anything wrong?”

“No, I don’t think so. I just didn’t realize…” Fanning herself for another moment, MeiLin tried to think about a helpful explanation. “Nosoti aren’t mortals like us, at least not exactly. They are… higher beings, for lack of a better word. If they wish you luck on your journey and bring you food, this is a great thing. It is like – a blessing, a portent of a great destiny. It is as if you’ve been prophesied.”

“I am prophesied,” Ekai stated flatly. Why was everyone making such a fuss about him?

Mistress MeiLin blinked at him, slowly. Then she bowed down, deeply, as if the Emperor himself was in the room. “It is an honor serving you, milord.”

“Oh please!” Rushing towards her, Ekai pulled his instructor up to her feet again. “Please don’t do that. At least here within the tower, can you please treat me like the boy I am?”

“I will do my best, Sir Ekai.” There was still a note of deference in her voice that grated on Ekai’s nerves. But he knew he was fighting a lost battle here.

“Can we go back to training, now?” he suggested.

“I think that would be a fine – “

“Gotcha!” Mattis exclaimed, putting a heavy hand on Mistress MeiLin’s shoulder. He had sneaked up on her while she was fully concentrated on Ekai, and had thoroughly managed to surprise her.

Mistress MeiLin let her eyes wander from Mattis’ hand up along his arm until she met his eyes, her face cold and calculating.
Then, in a move as fast as lightning, she spun out from under his touch and slapped Mattis square on the nose with her folded fan, leaving the big Coron blinking with tears.

“I will make you pay for this,” she promised, now sounding much more like her former self. “Prophesied heroes or not, you two still have a lot to learn. Prepare to be humiliated.”

Laughing, Ekai and Mattis exchanged a high five.

Maybe life was a lot more complicated now. But it was also a damn lot more fun.

talomor on September 16th, 2013 11:31 am (UTC)
See? Monday is my new favourite day! The oral exam I just had went well, at least :-)
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on September 16th, 2013 06:37 pm (UTC)
Congrats! Hope your teachers (Professors? Judges?) see it the same way.
Meridaemeridae on September 17th, 2013 06:20 am (UTC)
Maybe she was at the dentist . . . .
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on September 20th, 2013 06:33 am (UTC)
Whoa. I never have to answer questions at the dentist... ;)
talomor on September 22nd, 2013 10:50 am (UTC)
I got a 3. I really thought it might have been a 2 (no clue how to translate that to other school systems).
And no, it wasn't at the dentist's ;-)
Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainenmissingkeys on September 16th, 2013 12:25 pm (UTC)
Whee! I nearly forgot about the new posting schedule, and you just made my Monday fabulous. This is a great little story, and I just adore Ekai. What a very useful tool indeed. Thank you for sharing. :)
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on September 16th, 2013 06:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you, dear, and thank you for commenting.

Yes, Ekai and his multitool will show up quite a few times more.
Charischarisstoma on September 16th, 2013 01:58 pm (UTC)
Too cruel, Ekai being given a muffin by Beverly. Driving the Sir Muffin label deeply into the Phoenix Knight PR dept if it wasn't already. Suppose it does say how much she likes him to gift him with his name sake with the Nosoti love food or she knows he's going to need the luck she just gave him.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on September 16th, 2013 06:40 pm (UTC)
Nah, not really cruel, just helping along the inevitable. ^^

It's both that she likes him a lot and that she knows that he'll need every little help he can get. Luckily, evening the odds is a Nosoti specialty... :D
debbiemethosdeb on September 17th, 2013 12:05 am (UTC)
loved it ,those two are fast becoming my fav.Ekai is just too sweet to be true.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on September 20th, 2013 06:34 am (UTC)
Yep Ekai is a pure sweetheart and a hero to boot. That's why Leesha had no second thoughts about knighting him the moment he saw him.

Glad you enjoyed this little scene, and thanks for commenting!
Meridaemeridae on September 17th, 2013 06:21 am (UTC)
I'm just glad that Lady Beverley waited until Ekai was at the hand washing stage of his bathroom break.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on September 20th, 2013 06:36 am (UTC)
Well, she IS a very considerate alien, and well aware that human prefer to do some things in private. At least, she tries to be more considerate than she is curious. :D
BerthaBlueberthablue on February 6th, 2014 10:38 am (UTC)
Ekai is so cute! I love how he's still so awed and clueless about everything. And I laughed my ass off when Mattis finally snuck up on the trainer!

Also: “There was an alien in the washroom... And she gave me a muffin.”
I want to use this line in real life SOOOOOO badly! Even if whoever I'm talking to has no clue what I'm talking about.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on February 6th, 2014 07:20 pm (UTC)
So happy I could make you laugh! :D
And yes, we've been quoting that line to each other here already a few time completely out of context. It's one of those sentences... ^^

Thank you, dear.